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Video Conferencing for Business

Video Conferencing for Business

Video conferencing is a vital tool for the modern company, allowing professional teams to work face-to-face, no matter the distance. When modern video conferencing solutions were introduced a few decades ago, they were hamstrung by network and budget limitations. Technology moves fast, though, and today’s solutions provide a superior combination of video quality, usability, and collaboration features.

Every day, there’s more than 10 million video conference calls across the U.S., so the professional world is running on video collaboration. And as more and more companies embrace the technology, bringing in video conferencing is critical for maintaining a competitive advantage.

Businesses Now View Video Conferencing as a Core Piece of Technology

The rise of video conferencing has coincided with the rise of remote work, and businesses rely on remote work more than ever now. According to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, 58 percent of Americans have the freedom to work from home at least one day a week. Nearly 35 percent are allowed to work from home five days a week.
The ability to work remotely is a point of emphasis for workers, too. McKinsey’s report also found that 87 percent of people would take remote work options if given to them. Work flexibility is a powerful recruiting tool, and a video conferencing solution is what makes that flexibility possible.

Four Benefits of Video Conferencing Systems for Business

Video conferencing has changed the way companies manage just about everything. Personnel, projects, customer service, meetings – video conferencing software and systems can improve your organization’s effectiveness at every level. Specifically, here are four benefits the technology brings to companies.

Better Communication and Collaboration Efficiency

For remote and hybrid teams, video conferencing offers an efficient way to collaborate on projects. User surveys show that professionals believe they get their ideas across better and faster with video conferencing. Video conferencing tends to eliminate distractions, too, as meeting participants are less likely to focus on something else (like a smartphone) when others can see them.
This adds up to more efficient, more effective communication. And that adds up to more effective project management.

Reduced Operating Costs and Overhead

One of the benefits that video conferencing traded on early was its ability to reduce costs. That’s still the case, as the technology can greatly reduce the need for travel, which is increasing rapidly as businesses come out of the 2020 pandemic. A typical three-day domestic business trip will run companies more than $1,000 per employee, and depending on the destination city and other expenses, that cost could easily be doubled. Video conferencing makes many of those trips unnecessary.

Video conferencing can also reduce overhead – specifically space-related overhead like rent. Remote employees cost businesses nothing in terms of real estate, so if your organization is transitioning to video meetings, less office space is needed. As of 2022, the cost of renting office space in Houston is around $30 per square foot, per year. Sticking to a hybrid or remote work arrangement can bring your overhead down by thousands every year. In this way, a video conferencing solution can pay for itself.

Improved Team Dynamics, Especially for Remote Workers

One of the biggest challenges facing remote workers is their connection to the rest of their team. It depends on the survey you look at, but about half of remote workers report difficulties in feeling like part of the team.

Video conferencing systems can bridge this gap, ensuring remote workers can connect in meaningful ways with their team members. Regular video calls and conferences allow for convenient connecting with others, and some solutions also support chat and other communication tools. Nothing beats face-to-face conversation when it comes to developing positive team dynamics, and video conferencing makes it easy to pull off.

Access to a Greater Pool of Professional Talent

The entire globe is open to recruiters who are willing to seek out remote talent. With video conferencing, that talent is far easier to access and integrate into your team. Beyond that, the ability to work remotely is a significant perk that businesses can offer to outcompete on talent.

Younger employees (25-34) are the most likely group to take remote work opportunities if offered, but they aren’t the only ones. More than half of workers aged 35-54 are also interested in remote work. With video conferencing, your company can appeal to workers of all experience levels and of all backgrounds.

A Few Video Conferencing Value-Adds Worth Considering

Video conferencing offers several compelling benefits, but it can be made better still with additional technologies. A few examples include:

  • Large digital displays Video conferencing relies on a quality output medium – the display – to deliver a crystal-clear picture to the meeting’s attendees. AV integrators have a variety of displays to choose from, and your organization may prefer oversized displays or multiple displays for your solution. Multiple displays, for example, can be used to run the video call on one display, while the other is reserved for content sharing.
  • Interactive displays Interactive displays provide a tactile dimension to your meetings and can make presentations far more engaging for people. The Clevertouch is a leading example of interactive display technology, allowing presenters to keep an eye on the audience while using their hands or a pen to move through a slideshow, concept drawings, spreadsheets, or any other content.

Interactive displays can also run whiteboarding and annotation software, which can be a powerful collaboration driver. During a whiteboarding session, users can bring in content from the web and scribble notes one at a time, or all together.

  • Advanced room controls – Part of the video conferencing experience is ensuring the lighting and audio levels are properly configured. AV room controls make this easy to manage, ensuring that every call looks and sounds exactly like it should. Room controls can be programmed into wall switches and other physical controls, but most rooms now feature touchscreen controls that users can easily decipher. With one press, users can set optimal lighting and volume levels, start a video call and interface with any room scheduling software to ensure the room is reserved during the meeting.

If your organization prefers a simple, all-in-one option, those are also available. Poly’s Studio line of all-in-one video bars and the Crestron Flex are two such solutions, and both simplify system installation and operation. With an all-in-one video bar, you’re getting the camera, microphone array, speakers, and codec in a single package. The only thing needed is a screen, and the entire system is built for users, with one-button calling and wireless connectivity for content sharing.

Unlock Better, More Efficient Collaboration with Video Conferencing Technology

Competitive advantages are difficult to find in some industries, but better communication seems to be a pressure point for many. As enterprises grow, ensuring everyone is on the same page (and every department is working together) becomes increasingly difficult. Video conferencing allows for much faster check-ins with team members and much more effective project meetings. This, combined with a larger talent pool to access, means video conferencing can turn your company’s communications into a strong point, an advantage you can leverage against your competitors.

Modern Times Call For Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

Modern Times Call For Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

No modern meeting space is complete without a modern video conferencing solution. Remote work is on the rapid rise, and even for in-house teams, video conferencing is a preferred method of communication and collaboration.

Given the widespread adoption of video conferencing technology, AV manufacturers have poured a lot of resources into developing modern video conferencing solutions for today’s lightspeed economy.

Four Video Conferencing Solutions That Can Add A Modern Touch

Video conferencing solutions have come a long way since they were first introduced decades ago. Actually, they’ve come a long way in just the last 10 years. AV is developing at an incredible pace, and there are plenty of modern video conferencing solutions to consider. In fact, there are too many solutions available to consider in a single list, but here’s five of the most popular:

Interactive Flat Panels Add A Tactile Dimension To Meetings

Interactive flat panels like the Clevertouch are an ideal companion to any video conferencing solution, and especially for teams that do a lot of remote collaborating.

Interactive flat panels look like a standard commercial display and can output at the same resolution and image quality as a modern display. They are also powerful collaboration tools, too, because with an interactive flat panel the meeting’s presenter can visualize everything they’re talking about while talking about it. Need to jot down notes for the group? Open up the whiteboarding application and start writing. Time to collaborate on a concept? Use the flat panel’s built-in browser to bring in some visual aids from the internet. Is this meeting information-heavy? Scrub through slideshows, charts, graphs and figures with a finger swipe, so there’s no interruption while you figure out the controls.

Even better, interactive flat panels facilitate remote and hybrid collaboration as well. During a whiteboarding session, remote users can connect to the conference and make annotations as if they were right there. During the video conference, remote users can see the whiteboard and the room at the same time, so they aren’t isolated from the face-to-face experience that conferencing supports.

For optimal meeting efficiency and engagement, nothing beats an interactive flat panel.

Set Up The Perfect Meeting Environment With AV Touch Controls

AV systems can be controlled using touchscreens, and several manufacturers produce touchscreens ideal for this purpose. Among them, Crestron and AMX lead the way, with touchscreens purpose-built for controlling AV technology.

AV control surfaces can be tied to just about any room technology, and not just AV technologies. With a couple taps, you can set the lighting, temperature, audio levels and start a video conference call. Even better, users can tie their preferred settings to a user profile so the next time they use the room, they can press one button and set everything exactly how they like it.

This is extremely useful for video conferencing, as the room can be made meeting-ready within seconds using AV controls.

Connect And Share With Any Device With Wireless Presentation Technology

Wireless presentation technology has taken off in the last couple years because companies are looking for touch-free conferencing solutions. Multiple top AV brands, including Crestron, Barco, Mersive and Screenbeam, have brought wireless presentation solutions to the market recently and they are a smart addition to a video conferencing system.

With a wireless presentation solution, users can connect their own devices to the room’s conferencing and presentation technology. It can all be done without touching a single surface in the room, too. When the user walks into the space, the room’s display automatically detects them (if there are occupancy sensors present) and provides instructions on how to connect to the wireless presentation system. This can be done through a standalone dongle that’s ported into the user’s device or through the use of a random, temporary code that the system provides.

Once connected, the user can control all of the room’s equipment from their device and push content over to the display for viewing. It’s an extremely user-friendly option for businesses that operate on a bring-your-own-device policy.

Collaborate In Cyberspace Using Virtual Reality Solutions

If the above aren’t enough for your futuristic meeting fantasies, there’s always virtual reality (VR) to consider. VR meetings haven’t quite hit the mainstream, but it seems inevitable. VR conferencing solutions allow remote teams to meet together in a virtual gathering space, using digital avatars that stand in for real people.

It takes some getting used to, but there’s a whole lot you can do in a VR meeting that you can’t do in a real-life conference – at least not easily. During a VR meeting, users can whiteboard endlessly on surfaces that pop into existence. Unlimited visual aids can be brought in and arranged anywhere. Your interactions with other team members can even be reinforced with haptic feedback if you have the right technology. Can’t do that through a laptop screen.

VR meeting technology is still being worked on, but some business somewhere is already using VR technology to host its meetings on the moon. That’s the future.

Data Projections Is An Expert In Modern Video Conferencing Solutions

It’s a challenge for businesses to keep up with the latest in video conferencing technology, but certified integrators like Data Projections specialize in modern conferencing solutions. We have designed, installed, configured and supported a countless number of conferencing systems for clients that span many industries.

We’re much more than an installer. We serve as a proper technology partner for our clients. That means we get to know how your business does business, evaluate your existing technology, and then design a conferencing solution that provides maximum value. If the goal is to modernize the way your company does video conferencing, we are the ones to call.

Six Must Haves For The Best Video Conferencing Experience

Six Must Haves For The Best Video Conferencing Experience

The modern professional spends a lot of time in video conferences. According to a survey of nearly 2,000 professionals, about half are in video conferences for at least four hours every week.

Clearly, a lot of organizations prioritize video conferencing solutions. The question is: Are those organizations getting the most out of their conferencing technology? There are several solutions that can enhance the conferencing experience, and we’ve got six of them here. They include:

  • Wireless presentation systems
  • Interactive flat panels
  • Concealed microphones
  • AV room controls
  • Better cable management and connectivity
  • Room scheduling solutions

Together, these solutions can help your organization produce the best conferencing experience.

Wireless Presentation Systems: Run Meetings From Your Own Device

Some of the leading wireless presentation systems include the Barco ClickShare, Crestron AirMedia, Mersive Solstice and the ScreenBeam.

All four allow professionals to start in-room meetings using the space’s conferencing hardware. To do this, users first connect their own device to the room’s technology. This is done wirelessly and is guided by on-screen prompts delivered by the room’s display. The connection process is simple and can be done with either a temporary code or with a dongle.

Once connected, the meeting’s presenter can control the room’s conferencing technology, audio levels, lighting, climate settings – anything that can be controlled by the room’s control hardware can also be managed from the user’s own device. In addition, users can quickly push content to the room’s display from their own device, making for quick and engaging presentations.

Interactive Flat Panels: Meet, Engage and Collaborate Better

Interactive flat panels add a tactile dimension to meetings and give users additional presentation and collaboration tools. Popular interactive flat panels include the Clevertouch, ActivPanel and ThinkHub, and all three are designed to facilitate better meetings.

Interactive flat panels are useful for video conferencing, remote collaboration, and in-person collaboration that doesn’t involve remote participants. During a conference, the meeting’s presenter can open up a whiteboarding session that everyone, in-person and remote, can see and follow along with. Whiteboarding with an interactive flat panel makes it easy for teams to brainstorm visually and bring in media for inspiration. When the meeting is over, hit a button and the whiteboard is saved for future reference.

Interactive flat panels are plenty effective for standard, non-collaborative meetings as well. That’s because the meeting’s presenter can focus their eyes and ears on the audience while using their hands to navigate through the presentation. This is a better approach in keeping everyone engaged in the meeting.

Concealed Microphones: Maximum Audio Quality, Minimal Visual Profile

Poor audio is one of the most common video conferencing problems, and it can completely undermine meeting productivity.

To prevent this, AV integrators outfit conferencing rooms with quality microphones that can capture audio clearly and at a distance. The issue with a lot of microphones, though, is the tabletop space they take up. Some teams would rather have that space to work with.

Fortunately, there are high quality microphones that won’t take up precious tabletop real estate. – The new ceiling microphones from Shure and Biamp are a great way to cover the audio in the room without having table top mics. Another option are boundary microphones, which can be mounted flush with the conference table or even integrated inside of it.

AV Room Controls: Take Full Control Of The Conferencing Experience

A single conference room may consist of several technologies. There’s the conferencing hardware itself, along with audio, lighting, climate control and other systems. To get the best video conferencing experience possible, all of these systems need to work with each other. It doesn’t matter if your video conferencing system captures crystal clear video if the room’s lights are too dark to see.

To keep the room’s technologies from fighting each other, many organizations invest in AV room controls. Touchscreen displays are a popular control surface choice, allowing users to easily launch a call, set optimal lighting and audio values, and configure the room’s temperature for maximum comfort. Every user can be assigned with certain permissions, too, so they only have as much control as they need.

Cable Management And Connectivity Solutions: Get Rid Of The Clutter

More technology could mean more cables and more connectivity confusion, but it doesn’t have to. Wireless connectivity is always an option, and there are others. For instance, conferencing room furniture can be built with integrated connectors. This provides a perfect combination of connection stability and minimal clutter.

It’s hard to ditch the cables completely in some conference rooms, though. In those spaces, a low-profile raceway is a good option. Low-profile raceways are ADA-compliant, inexpensive, easy to place and effective, so they’re a popular quick fix for the cable clutter problem.

Room Scheduling Solutions: Optimize Your Conference Spaces

If you’re making upgrades to your video conference rooms, then they’re likely going to get a lot more use out of them. To keep your conference room traffic flowing smoothly, consider integrating a room scheduling solution.

Leading room scheduling solutions consist of hardware and software components. Room scheduling software is used to identify available conference rooms and reserve them for a meeting. Room scheduling software also makes it easy to communicate the details of the meeting with everyone involved. On the hardware side, digital displays can present the reservation status of the conference room they are paired with.

Room scheduling streamlines the process and adds accountability, ensuring your conference rooms are getting proper use.

AV Integrators Are Conference Room Upgrading Experts

If it’s time to modernize your conference rooms, it’s time to bring in an AV integrator. Certified integrators have plenty of experience in installing, configuring, and upgrading conference spaces, so they can spearhead your AV project, ensuring it’s done on time and within the budget.

Virtual and Remote Learning are Here to Stay

Virtual and Remote Learning are Here to Stay

Remote classes were already emerging before the pandemic hit, but since then, the trend toward virtual learning has greatly accelerated. Though there were some bumps along the way, it’s clear that students, families, teachers, and schools can all benefit from distance learning opportunities.

AV manufacturers have caught up with this trend and now offer solutions that can help districts get more from their distance learning approach. It starts with technology that allows for instruction and collaboration, even when educators and students aren’t in the same room.

Video Conferencing Makes Any Virtual and Remote Learning Program Possible

Video conferencing solutions are at the heart of any remote learning initiative. With video conferencing, your students aren’t confined to classroom walls. Instead, they have access to a world full of thought leaders – like authors, artists, engineers, and athletes.

At the minimum, your school will require video conferencing technology to drive a distance learning model. There are plenty of conferencing platforms to choose from, including both hardware and software-based systems. Whichever platform your educators prefer, modern AV solutions can be tailored to fit around it.

How Video Conferencing Technology Can Support Education: A Few Ideas

Video conferencing expands your staff’s capabilities, giving them additional tools and resources to help every student do their best. With video conferencing in place, school districts can do the following for their students:

  1. Allow teachers to instruct in-class students and remote students simultaneously – At the outset of the pandemic, it was common for teachers to maintain hybrid classrooms, where in-class students and remote students would learn the same lesson at the same time.
    This was a challenge for educators at first, especially for teachers handling younger children. Hybrid classes still make sense, though, for students who cannot attend for health reasons. With video conferencing and remote learning solutions in place, students required to isolate and students experiencing long-term health concerns can still attend class.
  2. Help students access lessons and learning content outside of school hours – Survey after survey finds that people learn better when they’re able to learn at their pace and on their schedule.
    With video conferencing technology, teachers can record lessons delivered to in-class students or lessons delivered directly to the camera. In both cases, these videos can be uploaded to a learning management system (LMS). Through the LMS platform, students and parents can access lesson videos on demand (VOD) and additional lesson resources at any time.
    For students who are ill or isolating, lesson VODs ensure no progress is lost. Even in classes where students are well, having VODs for reference offers students the flexibility to research and learn on their time.
  3. Help teachers access additional teaching resources – Teachers can also benefit from video conferencing technology, as it allows educators to connect and pull ideas from each other. Video conferencing also allows teachers to attend educator-focused webinars and train on current pedagogical practices.
  4. Allow students to take advanced, college-level courses – Video conferencing solutions also offer fast-moving students an opportunity to take college-level classes and pick up valuable university credits. Students that have the option to take college courses will be far more prepared for post-secondary learning – and this could boost the number of students graduating and entering university.
    Many colleges have programs in place for this very thing. Your school only needs a video conferencing solution in place for students to utilize.

A Couple of Solutions That Can Enhance the Virtual Learning Experience

In addition to video conferencing technology, there are a couple more AV solutions worth considering for distance learning purposes. They include:

  • Interactive flat panels – Interactive flat panels are an excellent complement to video conferencing systems. Interactive displays like the Clevertouch are designed for educational purposes, with lesson delivery and whiteboarding applications.
    With an interactive flat panel, the teacher can run the entire lesson from the display. They can open up a whiteboarding session, write notes and bring in any media through the display’s built-in browser.
    If there is a second display for video conferencing from in the classroom, teachers can deliver lessons to both in-class and remote students while utilizing the interactive flat panel. When the lesson is over, the teacher can save what’s on the whiteboard and share it with every student, including those who are connected remotely. That way, virtual students have the same access to any annotated material.
  • Enhanced camera and microphone technology – The better the audio and video on your remote lessons, the more effective those lessons will be. Leading AV manufacturers pair their video conferencing solutions with quality cameras and microphones to enhance AV data input.
    For example, a face-tracking camera is especially helpful, as it ensures the teacher remains in view even if they walk around the room constantly during a lesson. The camera automatically detects where the teacher is and maintains framing on them.
    Many video conferencing solutions come with high quality MEMS microphones, but these can be upgraded for a microphone array for better audio pickup and zoning.

Technology is at the Heart of a Virtual Learning Solution. An AV Integrator Can Help With That

Virtual and distance learning initiatives are a major undertaking, but a certified AV integrator can help design and implement them. That includes selecting the optimal hardware and software for your school’s distance learning needs.

Once in place, an AV integrator can provide ongoing support and maintenance for your distance learning solutions. If needed, this includes preventative maintenance, on demand technical support and troubleshooting if there are network-related issues. Virtual and distance learning solutions can make a huge positive impact in many ways, but only if they are properly implemented and maintained.

That means to get the most out of your virtual and distance learning investment, you’ll want to work with a reputable integrator. That way, you’ll enrich your students’ online learning for years to come.

The Next AV Gamechanger: Video Conference Bars

The Next AV Gamechanger Video Conference Bars

Video conferencing, remote teams, hybrid meetings – professionals spend much of their time collaborating with people who aren’t in the same room. This trend has taken off in the last couple of years, and now nearly 5 million Americans work remotely at least half the time.

The AV industry has responded to this change with better video conferencing solutions, and leading them is the video conference bar. Until video bars, setting up video conferencing meant sourcing, installing, and configuring a lot of technology. A major manpower and time commitment, in other words.

Video bars solve this problem by combining all the devices needed for conferencing into a single package. There’s no easier and faster way to set up your conference rooms or huddle rooms.

What Does a Video Bar Include?

A video bar is capable of driving a clear and compelling video conferencing experience. Inside every bar, the following are included:

  • A camera (with pan-tilt-zoom capabilities)
  • Microphones (MEMS, cardioid or second-order mics)
  • Speakers (mono or stereo, some with bass)

The only thing you’ll need to complete the system is a display.

Compare this to traditional video conferencing solutions, which have to be put together piece by piece hardware-wise. In addition to all that hardware, technology racks and control systems were required to run them. You’d also need a laptop or PC to run the conferencing software.

Video Bars Make Meetings More Efficient and More Convenient

The reduced hardware load means video bars are a far more compact and efficient technology for businesses. Their all-in-one design means they can be scaled down for smaller meeting rooms, and because they include control hardware, too, they’re simple to use. You can even port a mouse and keyboard into the system to steer the meeting from the table.

There are a few more perks with modern video bar solutions. For example:

  • Video bars speed up meetings – Video bars consolidate control and management of the room’s conferencing technology. User preferences can also be established for everyone, so they only have to walk into the space and hit a button before launching a meeting.
    The alternative is configuring audio, video, and the connection prior to every meeting, which eats up precious time. Video bars give that time back to your teams.
  • Video bars are easier to manage – Video bars are easy to manage on the user side and they’re easy for IT to manage, as well. Just like the hardware itself is consolidated into a single package, so is hardware management. Your IT people can monitor each room’s status, pinpoint performance issues, troubleshoot, push over updates, and power each room’s technology on or off. That means video bars also give IT a break.
  • Video bars enhance meeting quality – Sound and video quality are both excellent with video bars, and you’ll lose nothing by making the switch.
    Video bars can also be used with additional conferencing accessories to make the meeting even more effective. A second display, for instance, can be used for content sharing purposes while the speaker is in frame on the other display. Go further with an interactive display, and meeting participants can guide the meeting from the display. All of this is possible with a video bar.

A Couple of Leading Video Bar Solutions

Video bars fit perfectly into modern organizations, so it’s no surprise that some of the most reputable AV manufacturers have produced their own versions. Here’s a couple options worth considering:

  • Poly Studio X Series – The Poly Studio X Series is ideal for focus rooms to large conference rooms. Poly is one of the most respected brands in AV, and it has partnerships with other major tech brands, like Microsoft. The company has earned respect by combining industry-leading audio and video technologies.
    Its Poly Studio X Series is available in a few models. The Poly Studio X30 is built for compact conferencing spaces like huddle rooms, the X50 for traditional conferencing spaces, and the X70 for boardrooms and other large spaces.
    The Poly Series X includes a PTZ camera, which offers 4K resolution and a 120-degree field of view. It automatically tracks who is talking and maintains framing for participants on the other end of the call. It’s also packaged with Poly’s NoiseBlockAI software, which automatically detects interfering sounds and neutralizes them, ensuring they don’t interfere with voices.
    Poly Studios are also designed for enterprise-level management, so every Poly Studio can be onboarded before arriving at the office and without IT having to touch a single device.
  • Crestron Flex – Crestron is another top AV brand and another Microsoft partner. Its Flex Soundbar is one of many solutions offered through the Flex line, and all it takes to connect it to the room is a single USB cable.
    The Flex Soundbar includes a beamforming microphone array and a framing camera that provides a 150-degree field of view. The Flex Soundbar can also be controlled from a 10-inch tabletop touch display. From here, users can ready the room for a call and start that call with a single tap.
    Crestron’s collaborative technologies can be managed using the company’s XiO Cloud. Through the XiO Cloud portal, IT can provision thousands of soundbars at once, monitor their performance and resolve any issues remotely.

Your AV Integrator Can Implement an Optimal Video Bar System For Your Organization

Video bars are built for usability, but it’s still recommended to work with an AV integrator to launch your project. There are several video bar solutions available, each with their own set of features and products. A certified integrator can help your company select the optimal fit and oversee system design and installation to get it off the ground quickly.

With a video bar solution, your organization can rapidly transition to video conferencing without over-committing in cost or material. You’ll get the best of what the technology has to offer, in a package that’s easy to manage and easy to use.

Virtual Meetings – The Pros and Cons

Virtual Meetings – The Pros and Cons

Exploring The Pros and Cons of Virtual Meetings

Remote work is quickly becoming the rule, not the exception, and with remote work comes virtual meetings. According to UpWork, more than 35 million people (22 percent of the workforce) will work remotely by 2025, so those virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere.

That’s primarily a good thing, as virtual meetings facilitate better productivity and cost-efficiency. There’s a slight downside as well because virtual meetings have trouble replicating some of the high points of an in-person conference. Fortunately, AV technology can help bridge that gap, as well as emphasize the upside of a virtual meeting.

What Are The Pros Of Virtual Meetings?

Virtual meetings are almost always delivered through a video conferencing platform. This platform could be based on a hard codec, like those produced by Poly, or based on a soft codec like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. In either case, there are several advantages to this approach. For example, virtual meetings:

Save Money On Travel

Travel expenses can eat up about 10 percent of the typical company’s expenditures. Much of that money could be recovered by switching to virtual meetings, which require no travel to organize.

Can Connect Anyone, Anywhere

Even if there’s a lot of flex in the company budget, not everyone can travel. If you have employees who, for health or family reasons, cannot travel, virtual meetings will ensure they are included and considered.

Reduces Feelings Of Isolation

Remote workers are more likely to report feeling isolated from other team members, and understandably so. Virtual meetings, though, can help minimize this feeling and keep team morale high.

Can Leverage Other AV Technologies

Virtual meetings have become more sophisticated in recent years. In addition to crystal clear audio and video, modern video conferencing can be used with interactive whiteboards, multi-display systems and precision controls.

What Are The Cons Of Virtual Meetings?

As effective as virtual meetings are, there are some potential negatives to consider. If your organization can account for them, though, these negatives can be mitigated to an extent. Some of the concerns with virtual meetings include:

It’s Tough To Beat A Face-to-Face Meeting

Professionals still value the face-to-face meeting, even if it’s not the primary method an organization goes with. According to several surveys, less than 20 percent of professionals want to do away with in-person meetings for good.

Technical Hiccups Can Derail The Experience

Although conferencing solutions have become much more user friendly with time, there’s always the possibility that technology will interfere with a conference. Intercompatibility between conferencing platforms, for example, remains a sticking point for some solutions.

How Can AV Technology Be Used To Drive Better Virtual Meetings?

Virtual meetings rely on AV technology in the form of video conferencing, so targeting the right video conferencing solution for your organization is a good starting point. There are numerous hardware and soft codec solutions on the market, including:

Poly Studio

Poly’s Studio line of all-in-one conference bars combine ease of use with quality production values. The Poly Studio P5 is the most compact option, so it’s an ideal option for home offices and remote workers. On the other side of the spectrum is the X70, which is for large boardrooms. At every level, the Poly Studio series offers best-in-class camera and audio features.

Crestron Flex

The Crestron Flex also comes in several hardware packages, including two tabletop models, a conferencing-enabled phone and an all-in-one audio/video bar. The Flex does more than just video conference, though, as it can be used for room scheduling and reservation, as well as enable content sharing.

Zoom

Zoom is one of two major soft codec solutions and has greatly expanded its influence in the past five years. It’s known for its ease of use and variety of features, including end-to-end encryption, virtual waiting rooms and file sharing. Zoom even has a safe driving mode that greatly simplifies call control. Zoom also has other options such as a Zoom Room that simplifies the experience even further by only offering the Zoom platform on the display. The experience is the same inside the meeting but with one touch launching the meeting.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the other major soft codec and has gained on Zoom recently. Microsoft’s virtual meeting platform delivers excellent reliability and call quality, as well as custom chat rooms, file storage and full Office 365 integration.

In addition to a strong conferencing platform, organizations can get more from their virtual meetings with improved room controls or an interactive display. Here’s how:

AV Room Controls

An AV control system connects all the room’s AV technologies together and provides a single interface for users to control those technologies. This greatly reduces the difficulty of managing a room’s virtual meeting technology, and therefore reduces user error.

Interactive Displays

Interactive displays add a tactile dimension to a virtual meeting and improve collaboration. With an interactive display, users can start a whiteboarding session that everyone can see, including remote participants. Remote participants can also annotate if given permission, ensuring no one is left out of the collaboration process.

What Can AV Do To Offset The Disadvantages Of Virtual Meetings?

It’s difficult to perfectly simulate a face-to-face meeting, but good AV technology can get pretty close. High quality digital displays offer lifelike visual quality—pair that with AV-quality speakers and microphones and the face-to-face illusion is pretty strong.

Mentioned above, better room controls can help with minimizing the technical burden on users, and an interactive display will help keep remote employees involved.

However, for the full virtual experience, some organizations are even using virtual reality (VR) to hold meetings in virtual space. Users wear a headset during the meeting and can interact with each other as if they were in the same room.

For Better Or Worse, Virtual Meetings Are Here To Stay

Who knows what virtual meetings will look like in the near future, but it’s clear they are already a critical productivity and communication tool. The goal is to emphasize the positives and minimize the negatives, which can be done with proper system design and integration. When your organization is ready to make the most of its virtual meetings, consider working with a reputable certified AV integrator to manage the project.

Soft Codecs and Video Conferencing: Enterprise Quality Without Enterprise Costs

For decades, enterprise organizations have relied on hardware-based solutions for their video conferencing needs, but that is starting to change. Hardware-based video conferencing, also termed hard codecs, have long provided best-in-class video and audio quality, along with maximum reliability. They still do, but some software-based solutions, or soft codecs, have mostly caught up, and you only need a PC, smartphone, or comparable device to run them.

Market-leading soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are frontline options for enterprise, as they offer excellent AV production, uptime, usability and collaborative potential. They can also offer that while costing a fraction of most hard codec options, but that doesn’t mean hard codecs have been rendered obsolete. In fact, leading hard codec manufacturers like Poly have designed solutions that merge the best of soft and hard codec features.

Why Are Soft Codecs a Popular Video Conferencing Option?

Video conferencing itself has become one of, if not the most in demand AV solution among businesses, universities and other enterprise organizations. Soft codecs are a major part of that trend, as companies are increasingly relying on remote teams and therefore need a conferencing and collaborative platform that is easy for people to use, wherever they are.

Here’s why soft codecs are popular now and well positioned for the future:

  1. Easy to deploy and utilize anywhere – There’s no denying the quality conferencing experience a hard codec brings to a meeting space, but that experience is difficult to bring outside of the meeting room without a cloud-based soft codec.
    Today’s remote workforce has never been larger, according to recent workplace surveys. More than half of the global workforce telecommutes at least one day a week, and about 20 percent of remote workers do so full time. Video conferencing is a primary solution to keeping those employees unified and communicating with each other, and soft codecs are an ideal approach in this regard.
    That’s because most at-home or mobile professionals can conference through a soft codec like Zoom from their phone or with an inexpensive camera and microphone. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have tailored their platforms so they can run on most devices without compatibility issues and connect users using different devices.
    This allows remote workers to video conference in a way that’s most comfortable for them, which encourages more effective and more frequent communication.
  2. Reduced upfront costs – Although Zoom and Microsoft Teams are partnered with hard codec manufacturers to offer a variety of conferencing solutions, there is no need to invest in significant hardware with a soft codec platform. All that’s needed is a camera to capture video, a microphone to capture audio, and a display and speakers to output both. There’s a lot of room for cost-reducing flexibility here, as individual workers can get by just fine with their own computer and an inexpensive camera and microphone. As such, soft codec solutions can be scaled up with minimal costs, in many instances.
  3. Strong collaboration features – Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco and a few others have engineered conferencing platforms that emphasize collaboration. Features like screen sharing, content sharing, co-annotating, permanent virtual rooms, enhanced chat and conversation tabs and whiteboarding make collaboration more efficient and enjoyable. With these features, your teams will spend less time e-mailing back and forth, and more time interfacing directly about their ideas and concerns.
  4. Always getting better – The most popular soft codecs are rapidly being adopted by organizations in nearly every industry, and they’re only getting started. Because they are software-based, it’s easier to add and update valuable features. For example, Microsoft started rolling out its AI-driven audio codec, Satin, for Microsoft Teams. Satin will be able to produce sound frequencies ranging from narrow to superwideband, and do so while a call is experiencing high levels of packet loss.
    This is just one example, but as major tech brands such as Microsoft jump into the soft codec video conferencing market, the quality of soft codecs will improve with time and development. Organizations that invest in soft codec solutions, then, are investing in a long term, future-resistant conferencing option.

How Hard Codec Manufacturers Are Adapting to the Soft Codec Revolution

Soft codecs are a powerful and economical option for enterprise, but hard codecs still have a place in many organizations. They are extremely reliable, offer superb audio and video quality and are built by manufacturers that have decades of experience in video conferencing products. It’s standard practice for organizations to have a hard codec option for redundancy or for high priority meetings where unfailing reliability is a must.

Some hard codec manufacturers like Poly and Crestron have also developed products that are designed to work with leading soft codecs like Zoom. A couple of those solutions include:

  • The Poly Studio – The Poly Studio is an all-in-one conferencing solution that can provide a native Zoom, Microsoft teams, Bluejeans or GoToMeeting experience. It’s designed to make video conferencing as simple as possible, as it’s designed with a built-in camera, a beamforming microphone array and a pair of stereo speakers. All you need is a digital display and your team is ready for an in-room conferencing experience that rivals the telepresence rooms that Poly is known for. Further, the Poly Studio comes with Poly’s respected noise control features, including Acoustic Fence, which only captures audio inside the room (and not intrusive sound coming from outside) and NoiseBlockAI, which recognizes and automatically suppresses distracting noises like finger tapping or paper rustling.
  • The Crestron Flex – The Crestron Flex is another simple video conferencing solution that can also provide a native Zoom and Microsoft Teams experience. While the Poly Studio is built into an all-in-one piece of hardware, the Crestron Flex consists of a USB video bar and a tabletop control unit. Through the tabletop unit, users can connect their own devices, control the room’s conferencing equipment and engage other features, like room control and scheduling functionality. Pair this with Crestron’s XiO cloud, and you have an easy to manage hard codec solution that can support the most popular soft codec platforms as well.

Soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have brought much-needed innovation and usability to video conferencing. They’re economical, scalable, and packed with features that can drive collaboration and encourage everyone, regardless of technical expertise, to effectively conference and collaborate.

Video Conferencing In Hybrid Offices

Video Conferencing Is A Perfect Fit For Hybrid Offices

The vast majority of professionals, close to 80 percent, would prefer to work from home at least part of the time. Many of them are getting their wish, as according to an estimate by Global Workplace Analytics, between 25 and 30 percent of office workers will do their job from home more than one day a week. The hybrid office has arrived.

With a hybrid office approach, professionals spend some of their time in the office and some of their time from home, working remotely. This offers the best of both worlds, as professionals can maintain critical connections and collaborate in the office and maximize their productivity at home.

The challenge for companies running hybrid offices, though, is keeping their remote and onsite employees connected. To solve this issue, many businesses are choosing video conferencing solutions. This is also an ideal solution for companies with multiple branches as face to face interaction via video conferencing promotes strong working relationships and effective collaboration.

Five Reasons Why Video Conferencing Is Needed In Hybrid Offices

Video conferencing is an effective solution in many situations, and is an ideal technology for hybrid environments. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Video conferencing prevents confusion among teams – As soon as businesses switch to a hybrid office model, there’s the potential for confusion. Who’s working at the office today? Who is at home? Are there meetings that require both remote and onsite employees? If your workers don’t know who is home and who isn’t, there’s a chance that important meetings or tasks slip through the cracks.
    Video conferencing eliminates this confusion from emerging, as your teams are always a button press away from connecting to each other. Modern video conferencing solutions make it simple to get a meeting going, which speeds up the process. Further, the most popular video conferencing platforms and brands emphasize intercompatibility in their design. If other people or teams need to be brought into a meeting, it won’t derail the conference if different platforms are used to connect with each other.
  2. Video conferencing brings that face-to-face factor – Effective communication relies heavily on nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and body language. Without these cues, it can be tough for people to understand and interpret what others are saying. That’s a big problem when meetings are used to discuss important initiatives and to delegate tasks.
    Video conferencing preserves these important nonverbal cues, and can do so with lifelike visual fidelity. In addition to facilitating more effective communication, keeping nonverbal cues around prevents the kind of misunderstanding that can lead to conflict.
  3. Video conferencing ensures no one is left out – Multiple surveys have found that remote workers feel disconnected from the company and from day-to-day operations. That’s not unexpected when professionals do their work from home, but it’s still a problem because it can prevent good ideas from getting to management and reduce enthusiasm among teams.
    Video conferencing is one of the best ways to combat this disconnected feeling. Even if some of your employees are based out of other countries, a quick video conference can help them feel like their work is making a difference.
  4. Video conferencing can drive collaboration among hybrid teams – One of the biggest reasons for encouraging in-office time is for collaboration. It’s essential that your teams brainstorm, exchange ideas, and innovate, and it’s nearly impossible to do that if team members can’t communicate rapidly and clearly.
    Although some collaboration must be done with people in the same room, video conferencing can make up almost all of the gap with its powerful content sharing and interactivity features. AV manufacturers are mindful of how important collaboration is, so they make it as simple as possible to do it over a video conference.
    For example, if your conferencing solution includes a dual-display setup, one display can be used to frame whoever is speaking, while the other is for any shared content. Graphics, charts, concept drawings, diagrams, photos, sales figures – anything can be shared during a video conference.
  5. Video conferencing remains valuable even if the situation changes – Even if a hybrid office approach is only temporary, video conferencing will still fit into your company’s workflow and provide excellent value. Video conferencing is particularly effective for remote and hybrid teams, but even if your employees are confined to a single physical location, the technology can save your employees a lot of time. Video conferencing can be scaled up or down as needed, so even if there’s no need to connect with people outside the office, allowing employees to quickly connect from their desks, instead of gathering in the same room allows more time for productivity.

A Certified AV Integrator Can Help Set Up Video Conferencing In Your Hybrid Offices

Video conferencing is an ideal solution for hybrid offices, but only if it is designed, installed and maintained properly. That’s tough for organizations to manage if they don’t have internal AV talent, which is why many turn to a certified AV integrator to oversee any video conferencing project.

With a certified AV integrator providing the expertise and system design, any risks associated with cost overruns or delays are minimized. Before a certified integrator begins any project, they will first survey the site and consult with the client to assess their exact needs. During this consultation, the integrator will get an idea of what equipment and processes are needed to execute the project, which allows the integrator to start system design immediately.

Once the system is installed and configured, a certified AV integrator will train each team on how they can best utilize the technology. This training is a standard part of the integration process and is developed with the audience in mind. It’s never more complex or technical than it needs to be.

AV integrators also know that ongoing maintenance and monitoring are needed to ensure long-term performance. That’s why it’s common for certified integrators to offer a maintenance agreement as part of the integration package. With a maintenance agreement in place, the integrator will handle all preventative maintenance, technical support, onsite support, warranty details and equipment shipping, should repairs be needed.

Hybrid offices may be a new concept among businesses, but video conferencing is not. For decades, it has served as a primary means of connecting remote workers and teams, and now that remote teams are more common than ever, video conferencing offers more value than ever.

Ensuring You Have The Most Effective Video Conferencing Solution

What does an effective video conferencing solution include?

With more people working and learning from home than ever before, video conferencing has become a must have for most businesses and schools. Identifying and integrating the best video conferencing solution, though, is a challenge. At the minimum, an effective video conferencing system should offer the following:

  1. Excellent audio and video quality – When it comes to audio and video quality, good enough is not enough. People are quickly frustrated by a muddy picture or unclear audio, so quality cannot be compromised.
  2. Ease of use – The widespread adoption of video conferencing means people of all skill levels are expected to get comfortable with the technology. Modern conferencing systems are designed with this in mind, with uncomplicated controls and functionality.
  3. Reliability and intercompatibility – Today’s video conferencing systems are expected to be available close to 100 percent of the time. Another expectation: effective video conferencing solutions should be able to facilitate calls, no matter what platform the other party is using. To meet these expectations, you’ll need a professionally designed solution that is integrated by a reputable AV integrator.

What are some popular video conferencing options for standard conference rooms?

Current generation video conferencing solutions can be designed for any room, no matter its size, composition or layout. When choosing a system, though, room size is an important consideration, so here’s what a video conferencing solution might look like, depending on room size:

Small meeting spaces

Along with video conferencing, smaller meeting spaces like focus rooms and huddle rooms are also becoming more common. With a modest footprint, organizations can add more of them to their building and allow for small teams to quickly meet and collaborate.

In these spaces, an all-in-one video bar makes sense. Several top AV manufacturers, including Poly and Crestron, produce them and they represent some of the easiest conferencing solutions to install and manage. Video bars combine a high quality, smart camera, high quality speakers and a microphone, so the only other piece of hardware you’ll need is a display. Industry leading video bars, like Poly’s Studio X series, are also designed with noise reduction features and dual display support, which enhance the potential of your meetings. For example, with dual displays, your teams can conference with one screen and share content on another, which drives better collaboration.

Video bars are simple to use, as they utilize familiar connectivity protocols like HDMI and USB and come with one-button call functionality for starting a meeting immediately.

Medium and large meeting spaces

In larger conference rooms, an all-in-one video bar won’t be enough. In most cases, the best option is to put together a full-room solution, but the integration process is more complicated. With a room solution, the video conferencing components (camera, microphones, speakers, displays) are all installed separately. This ensures there is adequate video and audio coverage throughout the space.

Though they require additional expertise, room systems allow integrators to customize the system’s technologies and arrangement, so organizations can fine tune their system to attain the best possible conferencing experience. For example, if your conference space has a small table, ceiling microphones can free up work space. If your conference room is more like an auditorium, switching out a standard microphone for a beamforming array will optimize audio quality.

If your space is a traditional large conferencing room and if your organization relies on video conferencing for important communication, then an immersive telepresence solution may represent the best solution. Immersive telepresence is exactly how it sounds – the conference is designed to be as immersive as possible. This is made possible with multiple displays, cameras and microphones integrated into the ceiling or furniture. The technology is invisible but facilitates a seamless meeting without any need for manual control.

Considering video conferencing? Work with a certified integrator!

No matter what your video conferencing needs are, a certified integrator should be the one to design, install, configure and maintain the technology. This is why:

  1. A certified integrator can design a system to any fit – AV integrators are experts in system design and installation, so no matter what an organization’s conferencing needs are, a certified integrator will design a solution to fit. If, for instance, your organization is already familiar with Microsoft Teams, Zoom or another ecosystem, then an AV integrator will design a system that’s compatible.
  2. A certified integrator will ensure efficient, reliable installation – Without the proper expertise, it’s likely that problems will emerge during installation. Perhaps older system components need to be removed first. Maybe the room’s acoustics are interfering. The system may be obtrusive after installation. Whatever the issue, certified integrators are aware of them and know how to avoid or mitigate them. This will ensure that your conferencing solution is integrated on time and on budget.
  3. A certified integrator can provide long term support – Expert AV integrators serve as ongoing technology partners for many of their clients, and for good reason. Through an extended maintenance agreement, an integrator will monitor system performance, provide preventative maintenance, respond to any technical issues, ship and receive equipment for repair, resolve warranties, and more. With this long term support in place, professionally installed and maintained solutions will perform better and last longer.
    Also, a certified AV integrator will train its clients on system usage following installation. Training is designed with the audience’s skill level in mind, so your teams will know exactly what they need to know to operate the conferencing system properly.
  4. A certified integrator brings an expert opinion to AV decisions – AV is a complex field, and every AV-related decision is a challenge for organizations without a certified integrator helping out. With an integrator, though, your school or business will be well-informed about all things AV, including what technologies to target for the future, and how to get the most out of your organization’s current tech.

The sharp increase in demand for video conferencing solutions has also led to an abundance of video conferencing technologies. That can make it tough for businesses and schools to pick and install a professional conferencing system. But with a professional integrator, the process can be expedited, costs can be minimized, and an optimal solution can be designed.

6 Ways Video Conferencing Makes Interviews More Effective

Can video conferencing be used for interviews?

Video conferencing is a standard AV solution for unifying remote teams, facilitating effective meetings and ensuring professionals can remain connected, wherever they are. As such, video conferencing solutions also make sense for interviewing purposes, and in fact, many companies leverage the technology for this purpose. This trend has accelerated since the start of the pandemic, and according to a Gartner survey, more than 80 percent of businesses utilize video conferencing to interview at least some of their candidates.

There are several reasons why this is the case, and why video interviewing is likely a long term solution for companies around the globe.

Six Ways Video Conferencing Makes Interviewing Easier and More Effective

A top-notch team helps with the success of a company, so the interview process is of paramount importance for hiring talented team members. Every advantage counts, and here are six advantages that come with video conferencing technology:

  1. Video conferencing reduces scheduling headaches – When interview candidates show up for an onsite interview, there’s a lot of pressure to get them in front of everyone who is part of the process. A single candidate may speak to several people within the company before any judgment can be made on their fit.That can be a logistical nightmare to arrange, and if any obstacles come up, they can put the company in a poor light. It also takes a great deal of time and effort to line up several managers’ schedules, which is time and effort not being spent on other important tasks.Video interviewing removes this common pitfall from the process because it allows everyone involved to interview from their desks. Setting up several dedicated time blocks for onsite interviewing is tough, but even busy executives can find 10 or 15 minutes at their desk to ask a candidate a few questions.
  2. Video conferencing accelerates hiring – Another problem with onsite interviews is that they are often pushed back or rescheduled due to how difficult it is to get everyone in the same room at the same time. Not only is this frustrating for the candidate and other people involved, it also slows down the process, which also lengthens the time it takes to fill the position.One of the most critical hiring metrics for companies is the time-to-fill, or the amount of time it takes to fill a job opening once it becomes available. The faster your business can get new hires comfortable in their position, the faster your company can fill any gaps in productivity. Video conferencing streamlines interviewing, so your business can review more candidates, spot the best choice faster, and transition them into their new role.
  3. Video conferencing expands the candidate pool – Modern video conferencing technology is extremely stable and designed for maximum usability. It doesn’t matter what conferencing platform your business chooses as most candidates should have no trouble connecting to your conferencing solution.With location no longer a limiting factor, your company can open up a position to candidates all over the state, country or the entire globe. If the position is a remote one, then it makes sense to do the interviewing remotely so that your organization can find the best candidate, and not just the ones who can be there physically.
  4. Video conferencing makes it easy for interviewers to keep track of candidates – Some positions may receive thousands of applicants, and hundreds of candidates may be interviewed before the company picks one. That’s a lot of information to keep track of, which is a problem if an interviewer needs to know more about a particular candidate. If there’s no record of previous interviews, then it may be impossible to keep track of which candidate offers what.Video interviewing also solves this problem. All modern conferencing solutions have built-in recording features, so your interviewers can focus on asking important questions and providing important job details to candidates. If a candidate is moved to a second or third round of interviews, then it’s helpful to have previous interactions on record so they can be reviewed. This way, your company’s interviewers know what questions to ask next and what information still needs to be communicated.
  5. Video conferencing can help organizations find better candidates – If your company does keep track of its interviewing and hiring history, valuable information will emerge. Perhaps a new hire is showing excellent potential right away, or maybe a new hire doesn’t fit in as well as hoped.With video conferencing, your organization can keep a record of how previous interview processes have gone, so it’s easier to pick out common traits among the most successful new hires. This information can be used to guide future interviews so that the best candidates emerge more quickly.
  6. Video conferencing makes a positive statement about your business – While the pressure is normally on the candidate to make a good impression, it does go both ways. If your organization wants to attract top talent, a pleasant, modern interviewing process can go a long way in selling your business as one to work for.Video conferencing is a must in producing this positive impression, especially among younger professionals. Gen Z and Millennials are accustomed to the speed of video chat, as they have grown up with it. They would rather leverage technology to make the interviewing process as painless and efficient as possible, and with video conferencing, your business can meet them where they are most comfortable.

Video conferencing solutions serve a lot of roles for businesses. They facilitate internal and external communications, they enhance meetings, they reduce time wasted in on-site meetings, and allow people to connect when they are most comfortable and receptive to discussion. Video conferencing, however, is also a frontline option for interviewers, and can be used to attract top talent, no matter where that talent is.